This week’s announcement from AOL that they’re likely to sell or close Bebo after paying US$850 million for it early last year did not surprise me. AOL are legendary for muddling even the best of products and for the last 12 months I’ve seen Facebook really outperform Bebo on a number of levels. And for me, a core level is advertising.
In early 2007 I began running ads for some of my clients on Bebo. This new player on the local social media scene had quite simply exploded with Kiwis aged 12-24 and I was keen to get my clients’ sites noticed here.
The journey to get ads to air was very drawn out. At that stage Bebo didn’t have anyone on the ground in NZ so I had to go all the way to Jim Scheinman, the CEO in San Francisco, to get some sort of traction on who and how we could get our ads rolling.
In the end the solution was to use Google’s Placement Targeted Network. Now I was absolutely happy with that. Using Google I could easily optimise exposure and cost. After all, a site receiving hundreds of millions of page impressions was ripe for the picking and low cost high exposure advertising was underway.
Subsequently, we had a number of really successful months running ads for our clients on Bebo until it all went to pot when Bebo enlisted TVNZ’s help as their NZ media sales partner. All of sudden a complex middleman was here using a CPM model for buying ad placements on Bebo. It just didn’t work.
So we stopped advertising on Bebo. Our clients couldn’t afford it.
Fortunately at this time another social media site called Facebook was building real momentum in New Zealand.
Facebook had learnt a thing or two about surviving online and invested in creating an ad management console that enabled people to manage their own advertising just like Google. We tried it with a few of our clients and it worked. And it still works for us every month.
Now I know we’re only ‘little old New Zealand’, but I can’t help think that that very simple decision of keeping the ad logistics simple and enabling a long tail of advertisers to fill these vast voids of ad inventory was a pointer to why Bebo is melting and Facebook is solidifying its position as the global player in social media.
Today Beyonce won the Song of the Year Grammy for “Single Ladies (Put a ring on it)”. If you haven’t heard or seen it yet, have a look. The song’s catchy and it’s quite an impressive bit of choreography mixed with a certain sex appeal. (My oldest daughter asked me why they were dancing in their undies!)
The version I watched had just received 9.6 million views on YouTube. This was the version uploaded on 13 October 2008.
Single Ladies has been around for a long time and it’s recognition today at the Grammys was possibly due more to its gradual infection into social media, or more specifically, YouTube. Here’s how it went for me…
After viewing the video I looked to the side and saw a five star rated Saturday Night Live parody of the video featuring Justin Timberlake donning a leotard. Very funny. Views – 17.9 million. Date uploaded – 18 Nov 2008. Talk about a great launch pad for a song.
Then there’s another highly rated video featuring a chap with a world-class motor thinking he’s Beyonce. Funny-ish. Views – 10.9 million. Date uploaded – 10 January 2009.
Oh and there’s a dance troupe pulling a flash mob dance to Single Ladies in London. Clever considering they do the whole thing in one take. Views – 3.5 million. Date uploaded – 20 April 2009.
And a baby watching Single Ladies on TV and dancing. Cute. Greatly assisted by Dad laughing. There are few things more infectious than laughter. Views – 8.1 million. Date uploaded – 26 January 2009.
But wait, there’s more! Now a grown male in a nappy creating a meme out of the meme of the baby dancing to Single Ladies! Ridiculous. Date uploaded – 28 September 2009. Views 868,029.
So far all the parodies I watched were by people simply trying to make others laugh. It wasn’t until June 2009 when a group actually levered “Single Ladies” to simply promote their own cause.
Enter the Jonas Brothers, a Disney produced boy band who’ve shamelessly lifted the SNL “bloke in a leotard” idea and lip synced Single Ladies to promote their next release. Now I would normally mock this but their video has been viewed 16 million times! Date uploaded – 3 June 2009.
Accepting the Jonas Brothers are already a very successful boy band in the US, it’s interesting to see that successful exposure and marketing in social media doesn’t have to be an original idea to capture people’s imagination. In fact the copying of an idea, execution, and song, with just the slightest individual interpretation, can be more popular than the original. On this wee journey alone the rip off versions have accumulated five times more exposure of Beyonce’s song than the original video.
Perhaps the Japanese were ahead of their time with Karaoke.
Tracking your tweets is one new online metric only a few publishers are paying attention to. This is a shame as it is particularly simple and could prove to be a notable traffic referrer.
The initial tracking complexity stems from Twitter only permitting 140 characters per tweet. If you have a deeplink story that you wish to tell the world about, the URL is likely to contain many characters so you’ll need to find a URL shortener that cuts down the character length.
TinyURL is one of the old players in this market but my current favourite is bit.ly. I like bit.ly for its simple browser installation (which makes the URL shortening a one click action) and more importantly, it provides me with data on who clicked on my tweeted links. This wee snippet of information is gold.
For larger content publishers, it could have a real impact on what we see on their homepages. For newspaper sites, like Stuff or NZ Herald, getting a feel for how many people click on particular teasers/tweets/links in the first hour of tweeting could greatly assist with the hard editorial decisions on what stories or headlines should lead certain sections.
However, there is one gap with these current tweet trackers – they stop tracking once a person’s clicked on the link. What would be really useful would be a simple tracking service that gathered the leap from clicks to conversion within your site. Armed with that information you could really see the value of the tweet referrals vs other forms of online promotion.
Of course there are some ways to work around this but they’re complex to create and, in my experience, if the action takes more than a few clicks most people won’t bother.
This is where Stuff are doing some cool work. With a working title of “Short Stuff” they’ve created their own URL shortening functionality that they’re about to start using for their tweets. This simple action converts their longwinded query strings into 5 character URLs. They can track the clicks and any site activity from there.
That feels smart.
I bought a pair of uggs the other day after my crappy old slippers died. I love them. They’re warm, comfortable and ugly as. Every night I slip them on and they bring instant comfort. It could be that it’s particularly freezing in Wellington at the moment but overall I think they’re superb.
These uggs have got me thinking about other things that make a difference to everyday life and how important new innovation and ideas are.
Just think of the progress in the financial services sector in recent times. If we go back to credit cards, then Eftpos, then phone and online banking, now services like Wesabe or Xero – these are all tools and services that have created or are creating a real benefit to users’ everyday lives. Transactions are simpler. The benefits to the user are absolutely obvious.
The successful business or product formula in today’s world is:
How does this benefit everyone, everyday?
IAB NZ recently posted an interesting research paper by Nielsen Online on UK online advertising trends. Reading through IAB’s summary of things to consider for the future, I’ve added some thoughts from a New Zealand perpective.
Be aware – standard ad formats and inventory just won’t cut it, experimentation and thinking ‘outside the box’ are key
This isn’t blossoming in NZ yet. That’s not to say it won’t come but integrating mobile, social media, display, SEM, gaming, experiential etc is just too hard, risky, or costly for many agencies. And in many cases, rightly so – NZ’s box isn’t that big.
I still think there’s mileage in using some standard formats like Trade me’s tab and tower or showcase and skyscraper ads to connect with the users. The key for the immediate future is developing the right media buy that integrates context or a very low cost CPM.
It took NZ’s marketing community an age to come around to CPM media buying and many clients just can’t comprehend taking risks with untried media.
Publishers and advertisers have to work more closely together
Absolutely. For agencies this means keeping contacts, managing relationships and facilitating connections. This sort of close integration will raise questions about how the traditional media commission system operates. I see a limited life for the current commission set up in the online space. It doesn’t benefit either side when the ‘time/media spend’ ratio doesn’t equate.
Advertising must be a conversation rather than a push
I like this idea. It’s also a great sales approach. Tom Reidy details the conversation of selling in a recent post which could also hit home with online ads. Talk – don’t sell, listen, use the right language for your audience, keep your look consistent, never be too pushy. These are all useful tips when creating good online ads in the future.
Advertising tone must be more authentic, candid and humble
This is oh so true for a New Zealand audience and it has a lot to do with the user experience that follows the click of the ad. The authenticity of your company/product/message will be surveyed and summed up by the user in a matter of seconds, so that landing point needs to be simple, straight to the point and instantly rewarding to the user. Which brings things to the last point…
Advertising should add value to the customer.
And that value has to be absolutely obvious to the customer.
So my local news site Stuff launched their much anticipated version 3 this week. I met with Stuff’s Advertising and Marketing Manager, Kirsty Harmon this morning and gave her the following bulleted feedback. Nice to deal with people who can take on board suggestions. Feel free to add your own.
- “Ad feedback” – Is nice but should only appear when ads are hosted.
- Contextual ads – Feel right. The copy is too close to the image though.
- Nice use of blue links and spacing.
- No Billboard banner across the homepage. Good. In my experience people just scroll past those – esp if they’re dynamic.
- Links at footer around the homepage but they need to be in the footer of the content pages (point noted by friend)
- Wondering if top right could become a 200×80 ad that could extend the offer from Trade me. Deal would be that it has to be static so it doesn’t affect the logo or navigation. Would make it easier for ad agencies who need to produce a dozen different ads for optimum reach with each campaign.
- No mobile site yet…
Today I’ve been watching many people I follow on Twitter start blacking out their avatar in a rich show of protest against Sections 92 A of the NZ Copyright Amendment Act 2008 which comes into force from 28 February.
The “guilt upon accusation” element of the Act will mean anyone can accuse a New Zealander of copyright infringement without evidence. And in doing so, their ISP will cut their Internet access. The protest action has been sparked by Creative Freedom NZ and makes sense to me.
Geekzone has done a nice job of explaining the situation and implications. They’ve also created some simple display ads for people to host on their blogs and websites so individuals can further raise awareness of the issue. This is smart.
What would be helpful now is for someone to create a set of display ads that actually tell people how they can join the movement. This simple little action will greatly help the Blackout cross the chasm into the mainstream. Creative Freedom NZ have these details clearly outlined, they just need to be advertised to people in the simplest possible way.
With all these actions in place the speed with which their messages take off will be interesting to watch.
Hopefully when the campaign does gain momentum, it’ll get into the minds of those policy makers who hold the sway of change.
I saw this display ad this morning for the PPTA and it bothered me a little. Using black and white imagery and caps creates a loud bleak tone that carves negative sentiments before I’ve even read the copy (which is also a cynical pun).
Why do the PPTA do this? I know numerous teachers and they don’t speak like this. In fact, they’re the polar opposite.
Ever since I worked on TeachNZ (a good 10 years ago now) I’ve wondered whether our teachers’ unions have done more to drive potential teachers away from their profession due to their consistently negative communication practices.
It’s got to the point now where I think their messages simply fall on deaf ears.
Stuff’s straight up support to Breast Cancer Awareness Month illustrates the versatility of online advertising and brand strengths.
By just running pink across their header (with a tiny pink ribbon) Stuff are communicating support to BCAM and generating the subtle campaign awareness that’s difficult to quantify. This predisposition may just be the difference when we see BCAM collectors in the street on Friday.
When I worked on Raceforlife.org.uk I got my first taste of the passion and energy people in the charity sector put into events like BCAM and the skill it takes. The budgets are non-existent so they rely on brand support from celebrities, big business and popular media to gain exposure.
Paid for or not, it’s nice to see Stuff taking a lead in doing something different that doesn’t corrupt the content with page takeovers or eyeblasters.